Q&A: Should I go back to my verbally abusive boyfriend?

I am 40 years old and have had stable loving relationships and have never been abused or with a mean person, until now. Over the past year, my boyfriend would get mad at me for not wanting sex, flip out and call me cunt, bitch, whore douche bag. Says I don’t deserve good things in my life. He went through my purse and found a receipt, asking where I was and who I was with. He constantly says he is sorry and says he will get help. When this is not occurring, he waits on me hand and foot, tells me I am beautiful, etc. I have made it worse by yelling back, calling him a bastard, asshole, etc when he is mean to me. He will make snide remarks for things like me having trouble sleeping and ending up on the couch. For me lying on the floor when I threw out my back.

He finally moved out and says he wants me back..,. never knew “how much he loved me till now” Is this love?  If he gets help, can he really change?  I never thought I would ever find myself in the position where I would even CONSIDER taking someone back.  Your thoughts are appreciated.

Dear Marie,

You are, or were, in a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship. If you already went back to your boyfriend, you need to make plans to leave immediately. Do not return to him. Though it is possible, in principle, that a verbal abuser can change, it is very unlikely to happen. It would require years of therapy with a therapist who has experience with verbal and emotional abuse.

Some of the signs of verbal abuse include name calling (“cunt”, “bitch”, “whore”), going through your personal property without permission, belittling, threatening and anger outbursts. I highly recommend that you read Patricia Evans’ The Verbally Abusive Relationship and Verbal Abuse: Survivors Speak Out.

What exactly made your boyfriend verbally abusive is difficult to say. It could be a personality disorder. Though more women than men suffer from borderline personality disorder, this disorder – like all personality disorders – are spectrum disorders. This means that they come in degrees, and a significant number of men with personality problems have symptoms of this disorder, particularly the tendency to go from being very charming to being extremely aggressive.

There are many reasons why you should not stay in a verbally abusive relationship, the two main ones being that verbal abusers may become physically violent over time, and that they eventually will destroy your sense of self-worth.

There are so many good men out there. It may not seem that way when you still have feelings left for your ex. But no one deserves to be with a verbally abusive person. So, get out before it is too late.

In the future, look for early warning signs of verbal and emotional abuse. These include:

1.       (Paradoxically) Being extremely seductive in the beginning phases of the relationship.

2.       Being quick to use big words like “love”.

3.       Breaking promises and changing plans on you early on in the relationship.

4.       Being quick to anger.

5.       Being impolite to other people.

6.       Showing selfish behavior.

7.       Making fun of you.

8.       Belittling you

9.       Rapid mood changes

10.   Passive aggressiveness

As for your lack of desire for sex with your boyfriend, it could be that his verbal abuse killed your desire for sex with him. Another reason may be that he was not making an attempt to make you happy in bed. In any event, his way of dealing with this issue is clearly unacceptable.

If you need further help, you can read our just-released Kindle book The Breakup Cleanse. There, we talk more about verbal abuse and how to work through breakup issues. The book is available on Amazon.com.


Dr. Brit and Catherine

If you had one chance to ask Dr. Brit or Catherine any question about love or relationships, what would your single most important question be? You can submit your question here.

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